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Death Race
Genre Action
Year: 2008

Death Race is a loose remake of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 (1986) (featured movie poster). Corman’s vision is recreated by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) for the 2000 generation as a tribute and a cash cow. The movie doesn’t hold back in terms of visual effects and violence. In many ways, this could have been made by Manga as a video game prequel in a similar fashion to Dead Space: Downfall. The graphics are intense and will appeal to video gamers, who thrived on titles like Carmageddon for PC or the Takedown series for PS2. Watching this death-defying eye candy is a feast for the eyes, but most mouth-watering gamers will be eagerly awaiting the title’s availability as a video game (excuse the clichés).

Anderson creates a perfect scenario, which blends aspects from shows like Prison Break with the speed freak The Fast and the Furious series. Corman’s involvement and Jason Statham’s increasing cult status serve as an excellent precursor. The movie is similar to Highwaymen, and enhances its appeal with the prison and sporting arena atmosphere. Anderson also updates the film in terms of today’s technology, morbid fascination and Internet addiction. The death race is screened to millions online as a form of reality entertainment in the same style as Condemned.

Jason Statham is tough, and looks like a criminal with that permanent facial shadow. He is usually suited to more action-orientated roles, but has the fire power for this car stunt show. He’s convincing as the hero, whose only chance at freedom is continuing the legacy of Frankenstein, a former Death Race champion. Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious) makes a worthy adversary for Ames (Statham) as Machine Gun Joe. His bloodthirsty, gangster attitude is cool and confrontational. Ian McShane is decent in a role comparable with Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption, as he continues to find a home in bigger movies.

The movie has heavy influences from violent road rage and kill ‘em all video games. The death race vehicle weaponry and armaments are activated by driving over certain sword and shield symbols. The visuals are loud and in-your-face, and Anderson doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Drivers are dismissed in the cruellest way, and Death Race’s motto is ‘more gore, more glory’. The classic sporting hero slash coming of age story is given a dark, Mad Max theme. This isn’t going to challenge its viewers intellectually. If you want to put a label on it, it’d be ‘dumb’. This is reverse engineering as you’d usually expect this kind of stimulation from a video game adaptation. Violence, racing, prison rules and cheesy one-liners run amok. So Death Race is strictly for video gamers, Roger Corman fanatics and action junkies. If you don’t fit that description, you’re not going to be entertained.

The bottom line: Cool.

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